Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Let Them Eat McRibs


In response to the #OWS protestors outside their doors, the Chicago Board of Trade showered them with applications to McDonald’s.

I guess that’s the type of job they view as an appropriate measure to solve this economic crisis.

First World Problems

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Technically, we're 6%, but who's counting?

The self-conscious sneering of my generation is surprisingly hypocritical. I got into an argument recently when an acquaintance posed the point that the #OWS protestors had nothing on starving African children, and that our squabbles were a First World Problem. Hell, this tack even came complete with one of those pithy cartoons, as seen right.

The thing is, the irony that this exchange took place on Facebook was not lost on me. As it stands, reminding ourselves that the world exists – and indeed, letting that reminder stand in for actual action – seems to be a favorite past time of folks my age. Like all things, there’s a website devoted to just that sort of ironic tut-tutting, not to mention a song by MC Frontalot, itself an ironic ‘nerdcore’ band.

(Y’know, white guys acting like Black musicians used to be called hipsters, but I suppose now that hipsterdom has grown a life of its own, ‘nerdcore’ needed to be coined, but I digress…)

But, really, who are we fooling? If we do anything at all – beyond, of course, sharing that photo (and that photo’s been shared some 400 times on Facebook at the time of this posting, with a commensurate number of people cooing at its wit) – it’s a token effort done more to assuage our consciences than to bridge the divide between the developed and developing worlds. Nobody is about to give up their wealth and live frugally, no matter how many people thousands of miles away are starving.

But more importantly, how do the problems of the developing world equate with ours? Should we simply stop fighting about inequity here until all problems abroad are solved? Yes, if I have a bachelor’s and live in the United States, then no matter my personal debt and current employment status, I have one up on most of the world. I’m fully aware of that. But that doesn’t pay my rent, nor does it stop the fact that a lot of this nation’s wealth is mostly hoovered up by a tiny minority of plutocrats.

I’m thankful I have the comfort and luxury of being able to sit here in my heated apartment and type out this post on my computer. I’m aware of my situation. I’m aware that there are people poorer than those protesting downtown, even inside this country. But how does that negate their message?

Where’s my poll question?

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Steve Kornacki points out on Salon that the Quinnipiac poll, which asks, “Is your opinion of the Occupy Wall Street Movement favorable, unfavorable or haven’t you heard enough about it,” generates a largely negative response, while the CNN poll, which asks, “do you agree with the overall positions of Occupy Wall Street,” generates a largely positive response.

Well, yes, of course.

But, considering the successes of the movement in changing the national political dialogue back towards the economy, and now the broad spectrum – at least geographically – that the movement currently exhibits, who is to blame for the negative associations? Certainly, I’ve spent a lot of time writing words blaming the protesters themselves for their lack of savvy when it comes to public image, but I only really know New York’s folks, and while I could extrapolate that to the rest of the country, I doubt that everywhere is reacting the same and consisting of the same people. Clearly Oakland is not St. Louis.

I suspect that the case is still a pre-determined hack job by the Republican-led media outlets, who have decided from the start to portray the protestors as neo-hippies at best and bomb-chucking anarchists at worst. In that stead, Kornacki’s conclusion that “it might be a good idea for OWS to at least consider the ‘declare victory and go home‘ strategy” may not be the best idea in terms of paving the way for future demonstrations.

I mean, at the start I was already suggesting they do just that, but now the protest has simultaneously gone on too long and yet not long enough. To fire off a simple, resonant message, they’ve dawdled at the podium too long, yet, they haven’t been there long enough in the sense that, while the ball is indeed rolling, no lasting changes have been made or even promised.

What they need now is leadership: Something to give what is clearly a grassroots movement that has clearly struck a chord some cohesion and thus ability to deal with basic message hijacking and worse. It’s nice that they’re able to shrug the drawbacks of representatives in that the personal foibles of a leader can be attacked, but there is no decisive, unified stance against every little pin that a clearly hostile media has decided to poke them with.

That isn’t to say that the government or the Democratic party have fared much better: In reaction to the bleating of the Republican press that government is wasteful by making a fantastic – if completely untrue – soundbyte out of $16 muffins during a conference (fomenting images in the public eye of secret government projects hidden by budgets filled with $400 hammers, tho even that was merely bullshit from byzantine budget processes, as any procurement secretary can tell you), the Justice Department spent two years cobbling together an exhaustive – if completely moot – case that it had done no such thing. The turn-around time on that was simply too long, and the lies continued (and continue) unabated.

So, the question is, should the movement back down because it gets bad press? No. It will always get bad press. That’s the job of the media we have now. It and all other movements will get bad press. You can’t hide from that, and backing down now will present a bad precedent for future events. The movement should only back down if it finds it impossible to achieve any further goals, and I’m not entirely convinced that is yet the case.

In the meantime, maybe one of those committees they keep forming can work on media relations, perhaps?

Occupy Whatever looks mighty white-bread

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so says the NYTimes. And I can only respond, “well, duuuuhhh


Now, again, I’m still not saying that the reason for their being there isn’t worthy of consideration, and indeed I do agree that our economic model at the moment seems blatantly constructed to, well, fuck us. That it really is college and fresh-from-college kids from middle-class backgrounds angry that they’re not given the piece of the pie they were promised isn’t in itself a bad thing. Reformations and revolutions tend to happen when the middle class views and aligns itself with the poor rather than the rich.

That said, there’s a social divide present and they have done very little to bridge it, and in that division speaks to the assumptions of those downtown that in some manner detracts poorer (and more diverse) constituencies. This must be addressed if this movement is to do more than evoke horrible and horrifying parallels to the Tea Party movement, tho I hesitate to even compare the two, or worse, evoke ridiculous I-live-in-a-bubble campus quad vibes like the Occupy Museums schtick.

Nevertheless, tangentially-related, being in a bubble myself in the form of living in Manhattan, I only come across such monolithic demographics in gamer cultures. Of course, being able to play computer games and afford them the time to get involved in the culture is itself a middle class conceit, but you look online and it’s predominantly white, young, and male, leading straight to the well-known racial epithet-laden cesspool that we know of as Xbox Live.

I was recently reminded of such by an event at Blizzard Entertainment’s convention, where they had commissioned a band that went up and peppered their speech and music with the sorts of casually homophobic language you simply can’t say in mixed company. Not that they played in front of mixed company, if you know what I mean. The backlash was surprisingly muted online, where many stepped up to defend their bigotry by declaring ‘free speech’ and arguing that despite using the terms “gay” and “fag” pejoratively, they were not directing their ire towards homosexuals per se, and therefore were not homophobic.

That such an argument could even fly speaks to the sorts of circles these people hang out in.  Indeed, having played Blizzard’s World of Warcraft for over four years, nothing of what these guys said sounded out of the ordinary to me, because the general decorum on trade or barrens chat is that of a suburban middle school lunchroom. Needless to say, these particular idiots “may not” have been explicitly directing their language towards homosexuals, but their language cannot be construed as anything but offensive to homosexuals, if for no other reason than that nobody is innocent to the connotations of those words and nobody says those words in regular speech except within the monolithic demographic enclaves of suburban American teenagers.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but such communities have never been known for being particularly friendly towards homosexuals or, for that matter, any other form of otherness. Hell, the whole It Gets Better project is directed towards homosexual teens in closed, suburban enclaves because they could not escape the intolerance and homophobia until their majority and independence.

Now, that’s a far cry from the guys downtown, but I honestly believe that there is some similar conceit in their thinking and methodology that has precluded this from really representing New York instead of piles of bussed-in hipsters.

In Defense of Obama

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Cynthia Gordy of The Root has written an article criticizing Obama’s efforts to alleviate the plight of the poor since entering office, in light of the White House’s recent report on the same. Her tone reminds me of myself and most liberals’ complaints about Obama – in short, we think he’s not strong-willed enough – and every topic ends with a quote from somebody making the same “yes, but…” argument. For instance, on Health Care:

Claudia Fegan, a physician serving low-income patients in Chicago and a spokesperson for Physicians for a National Health Program, says that Obama’s initiatives have good intentions. “But the process is too complicated for most poor people, who have fairly chaotic lives, to access,” she said.

Or Welfare:

Economist Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, says there’s no doubt that Obama has provided assistance to the poor, but cites challenges. “There are some really good things that the administration has done around poverty, but they have not been proportionate to the extent to which the problem has increased,” she said.

Or Foreclosures:

“The foreclosure crisis hit the African-American and Latino communities in 2002, so we’re talking about a problem that is really entrenched,” said Lisa Rice, vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “I think the administration has done some things well, but we’re playing catch-up to a large degree.”

Each topic reads almost exactly the same: Progress, but not enough. Yeah, okay, okay. We get it. We’ve been steadily edging back from the brink – and dear god, there most certainly was a brink – we haven’t turned around and started walking away from it.

But, honestly, we know that. We knew that implicitly. Making a four-page article about it seems… redundant, especially considering it fails to make a single mention as to why he may have failed to live up to his campaign promises on all these fronts. There’s lip service towards the end of the article that dismisses his “playing politics,” but let’s get real: That 400lb gorilla in the room is an elephant.

It really does take getting all your ducks in a row in order to effect substantive political change. Obama didn’t have much to build upon, so the fact that he made any progress at all – against a party that’s out for his blood, has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, questioning the legitimacy of his presidency, and has shown an ardent and effusive desire to sabotage the government and the country until he is out of office – is a testament to his ability. But, quite simply, he cannot do it alone, and we don’t have all that many strong leaders in the Democratic party.

As pointed out by Robert Caro, it took nearly ten years of concerted effort to create the sort of situations in which Lyndon Johnson could pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. It wasn’t just a rush to curry votes book-ended with a tense face-off against Strom Thurmond. It was the result of a great long deal of “playing politics.”

By contrast, the relatively quick and decisive policy rehauls – to make a grand understatement – during the tenures of Lincoln and both Roosevelts were nothing if not tumultuous, fraught with peril, and very, very illegal, as far as the expansion of executive power went. Their actions saved this country from some horrifying crises, and in some cases were victorious against severe opposition, but I seriously doubt we’d let Obama – to say nothing of the GOP – do anything remotely as bold without metaphorically lynching him.

So, much as I complain about the protesters downtown, and much as I’ve also railed against Obama’s seeming reticence to work the system with some elbow grease, give them credit: At least they’re doing something. But no good deed, however, goes unpunished.

Oh God Please Stop, Part 2


Theft has apparently become a concern downtown for the #occupywallstreet protesters, as I predicted. Interesting tidbit:

“Stealing is our biggest problem at the moment,” said Nan Terrie, 18, a kitchen and legal-team volunteer from Fort Lauderdale.

“I had my Mac stolen — that was like $5,500. Every night, something else is gone. Last night, our entire [kitchen] budget for the day was stolen, so the first thing I had to do was . . . get the message out to our supporters that we needed food!”

A $5,500 Mac. (It’s possible: You just have to get all the luxury add-ons.) How’s that for wealth redistribution?

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